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... when not killed by other members of the hive.

Is it always a consequence of exile (denial of some resource, etc) or does some organ fail regardless of circumstances?

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The number of drones in a colony may be hundred-thousand , i.e 15 % of the total population. The drones lack wax glands, pollen collecting-appartus and sting which is present in worker bees which make them completely dependent on the workers, transferring its genes to the next generation is the only contribution of the drone bees. Usually the drones do not mate with the queen of the same hive. The drones that are able to mate with the queen die shortly after mating due to breaking of bulb of endophallus(penis) inside the queen.

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The rest, the survivors of the mating flight (mostly drones that could not participate in mating) are not allowed to reenter the colony. They remain in the vicinity of the hive and eventually starve to death.

In hours of crisis when the colony needs to drop the expenditure of resources(food) the workers eat up larval drones or drive out the matured drones from the colony that eventually die due to the same reason.

Information taken from:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Bees
  3. The Backyard Beekeeper
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  • $\begingroup$ But don't most drones never mate? Do the ones not mating have a normal lifespan or also die of some reason earlier than their sisters in the hive? $\endgroup$ – skymningen Aug 18 '16 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for pointing out I have edited my answer. @skymningen $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Aug 18 '16 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ @skymningen I did write "when not killed or exiled". As for "the only contribution", though, I am told that drones, when still welcome, do help with hive temperature regulation (shivering of fanning) same as workers do. I guess that would also make them no less useful than a worker against a hornet. $\endgroup$ – kaay Aug 23 '16 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @kaay: You wrote "when not killed by other members of the hive". In my understanding you asked exactly what they die of in exile. Because even those who mate are in exile after they leave for the mating flight. $\endgroup$ – skymningen Aug 24 '16 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @skymningen (not killed) -> (exile) was not obvious to someone who did not already know the answer to the question. In my last comment I did not mean I wrote "when not killed or exiled" word for word, I meant that I did mention two other known reasons for death - being killed and exile-caused denial of resources (which, again, did not obviously need to be starvation - for all I knew they may have just dropped dead in the prolonged absence of some pheromones, etc). $\endgroup$ – kaay Aug 24 '16 at 13:46

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